From Smoke Signals To Smart Detection — How Singapore's AI Innovation Is Keeping Public Areas Free Of Smoke

Singapore has improved its AI technology, Balefire, to strengthen the enforcement of smoking restrictions in public areas. The updated system is designed to aid local law enforcement by accurately identifying individuals smoking in prohibited areas.

What Happened: According to The Register, Singapore’s digital transformation body, GovTech, has upgraded Balefire, an AI system initially launched to detect smokers in non-smoking zones across the country. The 3.0 version of the technology is currently being trialed in 20 locations as part of an expanded pilot programme.

Pye Sone Kyaw, an AI engineer at GovTech, explained that Balefire’s primary objective is to “assist NEA [the National Environment Agency] in detecting smokers in smoking-prohibited places.” Individuals caught violating the smoking ban could be fined up to S$200 ($148).

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Despite the complexity of distinguishing cigarettes from similar items and the restrictions of a comprehensive detection model, GovTech developed a custom processing pipeline. The newly updated Balefire employs multiple models, drawing on footage from current and previous AI system versions.

Why It Matters: AI technology primarily aims to boost smokers’ detection rate while minimizing false positives. This optimization will enable better deployment of enforcement officers to hotspot areas. The move is anticipated to greatly improve the National Environment Agency’s effectiveness in enforcing the country’s smoking restrictions.

This technological progression serves as a testament to Singapore’s commitment to leveraging AI to enhance its public health initiatives and maintain a healthier environment for its residents. The successful implementation of Balefire 3.0 could potentially lead to similar AI-led innovations in other areas of law enforcement and public safety.

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